My Year as a Fairy Tale: Bringing Magic and Marie Antoinette to Maitland

Thursday, 2 March 2017

University of Newcastle PhD candidate, Helen Hopcroft, will spend a year dressed as Marie Antoinette in an effort to highlight and bolster tourism in Maitland.

My Year as a Fairy Tale is a year-long performance by artist and writer Ms Hopcroft who trained as a painter at London’s Royal College of Art and is in the final stages of a Creative Writing PhD at the University of Newcastle. The project is sponsored by the University of Newcastle’s Centre for 21st Century Humanities and partnered by Slingshot, a Newcastle-based corporate accelerator.

For one year from 1st May, 2017, she will dress in historically accurate costume day and night as Marie Antoinette, and go about her everyday life in Maitland, a regional NSW town.

‘I will be going about my daily life including doing the school run, visiting the gym and supermarket, working and attending social events, all while wearing the extravagant costume of late 18th century France,’ Ms Hopcroft said.

My Year as a Fairy Tale will be used to support Maitland’s visitor economy through an active social media campaign.

‘I strongly believe that regional economies benefit greatly from an active arts sector, and that creativity can play a leading role in urban renewal,’ Ms Hopcroft said.

‘While Maitland was once the second largest city in NSW, many small businesses in the CBD struggle with the lack of foot traffic, while other commercial premises remain vacant. It’s like Newcastle before Marcus Westbury and Renew Newcastle came along,’ observes Hopcroft.

One of Hopcroft’s long-term plans is to use the performance to lobby for the construction of a museum in Central Maitland. She sees this as a way of celebrating the Hunter Valley’s history and boosting the region’s visitor economy.

‘Museums teach us about our past,’ says Hopcroft, ‘but they also help us imagine our future. As a living symbol of the past, I want to use the Marie Antoinette persona to start a conversation about Maitland’s future’.

Director of the Centre for 21st Century Humanities, Professor Hugh Craig, says this is a great example of how humanities research can impact the local tourism economy.

“Ms Hopcroft’s project brings history to life and will no doubt stick in the minds of everyone who sees her in costume. It’s a creative and thought provoking way to highlight a significant issue affecting regional towns all over Australia,” Professor Craig said.

Hopcroft, whose grandmother started Hobart’s first commercial art gallery, jokes that her fascination with Marie Antoinette is the result of a good feminist upbringing.

‘Marie Antoinette was held up as an example of excess, of the arrogance of the powerful. I want to change this story. I want to reimagine Marie Antoinette as a symbol of the re-enchantment of Maitland. It’s a glorious city with huge potential’.

A creative team, including videographer Jessica Coughlan, will document My Year as a Fairy Tale using film, writing, visual art and photography. To raise money for costumes, Hopcroft and her team launched a Pozible crowdfunding campaign on Monday 27th February at 2pm.

Photo opportunity:

Helen Hopcroft will be in costume and available for interviews and photographs at: 

The Palm Court Tea Salon at Mansfield House
315 High Street Maitland
@ 10am, Thursday 9th March 2017

My Year as a Fairy Tale trailer

Helen Hopcroft's year spent dressing as Marie Antoinette will begin on 1st May, 2017.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.